The Root of the SBC Controversy
by Dr. Morris H. Chapman, President, SBCEC

"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love."

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NASB)

SBC critics such as Texas Baptists Committed assert that the controversy in the SBC was about power and politics. This is not so. The root of the controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention was about theology!

The seeds of the controversy, which returned the Southern Baptist Convention to its historic commitments, had been germinating as early as the late 1950s. The steady growth in number and influence in the Convention, especially in the colleges and seminaries, of the "anti-supernaturalists" was producing more and more liberalism in writing, proclamation, and publication. The adoption of a hermeneutic of suspicion which elevates man's reason above the clear statements of the Bible (see "Bibliolatry" article in this series of articles) resulted in a diminished view of Scripture with attendant faulty applications in areas of doctrine and practice (e.g., soteriology, sexual ethics, sanctity of life issues). Correspondingly, there was more and more discomfort and outright anger among many pastors and churches.

The attempts by denominational leaders to "keep the peace" by such actions as recommending the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message and the reluctant re-publication of volume one of the Broadman Commentary were ineffectual in addressing the real problem: the continued influence of many teachers and leaders who did not hold to a high view of Scripture. When moral suasion, passionate appeals, and public criticism failed to alter the status quo, conservatives devised and publicly announced a strategy to utilize the time-honored, democratic electoral system of the Southern Baptist Convention to elect conservative presidents, officers, and directors of the agencies, who would seek conservative personnel to serve Southern Baptists.

What motivated these Baptists to risk personal criticism, jeopardize careers, lose friends, and embroil the Southern Baptist Convention in a controversy that could have eventuated in its disintegration? Was it power lust or right-wing secular politics or an affinity for fighting as some have accused? Absolutely not these accusations are totally unfounded.

The central issue that spawned and sustained the movement was the nature of Scripture and its significance for the practice of Christianity as expressed through Southern Baptists. The controversy was ignited by the diminution of confidence in the Bible as the accurate and trustworthy written Word of God. Scores of Godcalled young people who had been birthed, baptized, and discipled in Bible-believing Southern Baptist churches went off to Baptist institutions of higher learning where they were robbed of their faith in the truthfulness of Scripture by the very folk who were being paid by Baptists to strengthen their faith and prepare them for vital ministry. Many of these potential leaders abandoned Christian ministry. Worse yet, some remained to poison the churches with the same false doctrine. What tragic results of this lamentable epoch of unfaithful teaching! Gratefully, many of the young preachers weathered the assault on their Bible and their faith and were the very ones who led the Southern Baptist Convention to return to its roots.

Some Baptists may find it difficult to believe there was growing liberalism afoot in the SBC but the facts bear it out. Others may have viewed the internal conflict in the denomination as distasteful and disturbing, but it was necessary if sound biblical theology were once again to be the platform for our Convention's work.

We know Southern Baptists in Texas are not looking for a fight. They desire to be peaceable, cooperative, and harmonious but not at the expense of compromising Christian truth!

In recent years, America has been honoring the veterans, living and dead, of World War II. No one likes war. But how grateful we are for those who sacrificed in war to preserve those things worth fighting for.

We pray that the issue of sound doctrine is settled for Southern Baptists and that more controversy will not be necessary. But we are thankful that Baptists, in Texas and elsewhere, can be counted on to stand for Christ's truth whatever the cost.

Reprinted from The Truth about the SBC & Texas, by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
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